Democrats get out the vote with high-tech operation

POLITICAL GAME

November 04, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Hannah Seamans was posted yesterday at the farthest reach of the Democrats' statewide get-out-the-vote effort, a high-tech enterprise the party sees as a model for the 1990s.

With a list of committed Democratic voters in hand, the 57-year-old real estate agent from Pikesville watched over brisk voting inside Public School 226 on the corner of Violetville Lane and South Grantley Street in Southwest Baltimore.

As voters in this enclave of Reagan-Bush Democrats checked in, she looked for their names on a roster prepared by the party's Coordinated Campaign, a $500,000 effort designed to locate supporters of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

Gone are the days when Democrats depended on political clubs, on the illegal but still-available walking around money or on the party's 2-to-1 voter registration advantage in Maryland.

The names on Mrs. Seamans' list came from a massive phone bank -- workers in 30 small offices using 315 phone lines to call lists of voters compiled from recent elections. The responses were charted and fed into a computer.

The objective was to identify Clinton supporters in historically Democratic districts where the Democratic "performance" -- that's new political-speak for voting -- had fallen off during the Reagan years.

If the targeted voters failed to appear, they got a personal visit yesterday afternoon from another team of volunteers dispatched Len Lucchi, a Prince George's County lawyer, and Greg Pecoraro, the acting director of the state party who is on leave from his job as chief aide to State Treasurer Lucille Maurer.

Mrs. Seamans, who began working for the Democrats in the 1950s, said she was there "not for my future, but for the future of my children."

She was joined at the table by Michele Gollnick, a 24-year-old student at Towson State University who had worked in New Hampshire last winter for Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, and by Joyce Leviton, 48, a city planner.

Some 120 other volunteers were also taking attendance at 30 selected Baltimore precincts yesterday.

Earlier, voters who said they would support the ticket had received two pieces of Clinton/Gore campaign literature. Mr. Lucchi and Mr. Pecoraro also had arranged for volunteers to distribute 200,000 "door-hangers" -- campaign literature that slips over the doorknob. Volunteers had called 150,000 of the 197,000 newly registered Democratic voters. And they had sent material to everyone who requested an absentee ballot, moving quickly enough so the literature arrived with the ballot.

As Mr. Lucchi and Mr. Pecoraro set out yesterday to oversee the machinery they had set up, they passed a car with a "We Must Vote!" poster on the top and a loudspeaker, piping a message from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"We must vote," the mayor's recorded voice said. "We must vote for our city. We must vote for our children. We must vote for ourselves. We must vote for Clinton/Gore."

Mr. Lucchi, who says he's a lawyer so he'll have something to do between elections, began in politics in 1979 in Baltimore. He and Mr. Pecoraro, then roommates at the Johns Hopkins University, worked together for Mary Pat Clarke, running for Baltimore City Council.

Mr. Pecoraro, sounding a bit like an old pol working for a patronage job, said, "I do government and I can't do it unless we win."

At School 226, Mr. Lucchi walked into the polling place wearing a Clinton campaign shirt and was promptly advised that campaigning was not allowed. He left.

But his team of workers there kept on attending to its task of getting out every available vote.

"I'm so excited I can hardly stand it," said Ms. Leviton, the city planner.

"This is history in the making," said Mrs. Seamans.

Rolling out the big gun

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's decision to bolt his party in favor of President Bush did not come without high-level cajoling.

A few local Republicans thought it would be a good idea to get Mr. Schaefer in the Bush camp. But that came to nothing.

Then the Bush campaign director, poll-taker Robert Teeter, called. The governor essentially agreed.

But, taking no chances, the White House weighed in with a call from James A. Baker III, Mr. Bush's closest adviser. The next day, Mr. Schaefer was on Air Force One, heading to Missouri to endorse Mr. Bush.

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